As the title implies, Kuiper’s first novel is composed entirely of notes a mother and daughter leave for each other on the refrigerator door.
Mom is a busy obstetrician recently separated from her husband. Claire is her 15-year-old daughter. Despite a few random complaints, mostly about needing money to buy the lists of items Mom requests, Claire comes across from the beginning as too good to be true—independent yet loving and responsible. Mom comes across as very absentee and whiny. Her lack of a cell phone, a complaint of Claire’s, is a little odd, especially given her frequent notes about being called to an emergency delivery. Then notes back and forth about doctor appointments and mammograms start to appear. Around the same time, Mom starts leaving messages about a boy named Michael having called for Claire. A note refers to the lump Mom has in her breast. Soon she and Claire are arranging by note for Claire to accompany Mom to the lumpectomy. Claire grocery shops and cooks for Mom. Mom continues to work. Claire worries about Mom but is also dating Michael, whom Mom never gets around to meeting. Claire and Mom bicker over Michael and Claire briefly goes to stay with Dad. Mom admits she has cancer. Michael and Claire break up, get back together, break up again. Claire realizes how serious Mom’s condition is. Claire and Dad get Mom a wig for her chemo but Mom freaks out. Mom leaves petulant notes and then apologizes. Claire gets a little angry and then apologizes. Basically, the novel progresses from nice-normal to nice-sad to nice-supersad as Mom’s health deteriorates. Eventually, Claire is leaving notes to say she is in the backyard, and Mom’s notes say she’s resting. Claire leaves two last notes after Mom has died to say how much she loved Mom and to tell her about her new boyfriend James. All of which makes for an easy read for those looking for sad-lite.
Sometimes minimalism is art, but here less is less.